How Important Are Prenatal Vitamins, Really?

Even the healthiest eaters among us need a little extra nutrition when we’re eating for two. Most of our nutrients should come from a healthy diet, of course, but prenatal vitamins are another important part of a healthy pregnancy.

What Prenatal Vitamins do For You that Other Vitamins Don’t

Prenatal vitamins differ from your standard multivitamin. They’re designed specifically for the nutritional needs of pregnant women and their developing babies. There are different kinds of prenatal vitamins (ask your doctor for her recommendations regarding which kind you should take). In general, prenatal vitamins offer you higher amounts of a couple of nutrients important for developing babies and their mothers:

  • Folic acid. Folic acid is known to help reduce defects in the baby’s neural tube. Neural tube defects cause spinal cord and brain abnormalities.
  • Iron. Extra iron helps prevent anemia, which can cause fatigue (as if you need more fatigue during pregnancy). It also helps support your baby’s development.

Any prenatal vitamin you purchase should also include generous dosages of Vitamin D (at least 400 international units), Copper (at least 2 mg), Vitamin B6 (at least 2 mg), Zinc (at least 15 mg), Calcium (at least 2 mg), and  Vitamin C (at least 50 mg).

Don’t Get Too Much of a Good Thing

It’s worth noting that too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily a good thing. In fact, one recent study showed that too much iron could lead to constipation, nausea, elevated hemoglobin levels, and even preterm birth. Be careful to take prenatal vitamins and supplements in the dosages recommended by your doctor or health care professional.

Prenatal vitamins are sold over the counter and there are a wide variety of brands available. Ask your doctor for recommendations on which type of prenatal vitamins will be best for you. Your doctor will take any special risk factors or health issues you may have into account when making recommendations.

Whichever prenatal vitamins you take, make sure to take them regularly. It isn’t the end of the world if you miss a day, but don’t make it a habit. If you do miss a day, don’t double up (remember, too much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing). Just start back up with taking the recommended dosages.


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